Shahid launches new Saudi channel to boost entertainment sector

“There is a balance to be struck between creative freedom and our community guidelines” — TikTok Regional GM

DUBAI: In July, TikTok appointed Tarek Abdalla as regional general manager for the Middle East, Turkey, Africa, Pakistan and South Asia.

Abdalla joined TikTok after more than 5 years at Google where his most recent role was regional marketing for emerging markets EMEA.

“Technology is not just a career for me, but a passion that I have had since I was a teenager,” he said.

The passion was born thanks to “an amazing computer teacher”, who encouraged Abdalla and helped him digitize and automate the school’s quarterly report system, saving hundreds of hours teachers.

“Since then, I’ve been a strong believer in how technology can create value and help us focus on our best abilities as humans,” he said.

After working at YouTube, the original home of video, it is now TikTok, the most popular short-form video platform. “My experience really paved the way for my new role,” Abdalla said.

“Digital platforms have completely changed the way we interact with the world and each other, as well as the way we live our lives, from every angle and video is playing a transformative role in people’s online experiences. “, he added.

“Video helps make education easier, entertainment more enjoyable, and music more dynamic,” and for many people, TikTok has become the platform they “turn to for lifelong entertainment.” their day,” according to Abdalla.

Tarek Abdella

While YouTube remains popular for video content – including short videos with the launch of YouTube Shorts – Abdalla said: “TikTok is unique because it lives at the intersection of entertainment, community and commerce, and we celebrate primarily storytellers.

“A single piece of content can quickly go viral and create demand on a global scale, and we’ve seen it again with the viral hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt.”

The hashtag is so popular that sites like BuzzFeed and the New York Post publish articles with lists of the most useful things TikTok has made people buy, and stores even have “As Seen On TikTok” sections.

In fact, videos with the hashtag had amassed a global total of 13 billion views on the platform as of June 2022.

The platform has a powerful hold on Gen Z audiences, with users often finding inspiration on the platform, whether for recipes or shopping. Much of that power comes from creators who seem authentic, trustworthy, and trustworthy.

A 2021 study by influencer marketing firm Markerly found that TikTok had a significantly higher engagement rate than Instagram Reels for individual users.

Perhaps that’s why 92% of TikTok users said they took action after watching a TikTok video, and one in four globally say they’re inspired to research a product or even make a purchase, according to a global TikTok Marketing Science study conducted by Kantar.

“I’m amazed at how the TikTok community has truly transformed the consumer journey from a linear path to purchase into an engagement ecosystem that triggers action in the moment,” Abdalla said.

His goal is “to drive strategic growth initiatives and solidify TikTok’s presence in these markets (METAP and South Asia), as well as support our sales teams in their goals of connecting partners to the growing TikTok community.” .

Although TikTok is a global company, Abdalla said, “we are strongly localized in our approach,” meaning the regional team can “bring our creators the content and insights that resonate locally.”

In the region, he added, “a new wave of creators has been inspired by the exceptional popularity of the short video platform” in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is home to many TikTok trends, with users 1.3 times more likely to learn about products and trends before their peers.

In fact, Saudi Arabia is “particularly unique” in that it has “become one of the fastest growing gaming hubs in the world and TikTok has provided a space for gamers to watch and engage with broader game content,” he added.

Despite the growing popularity of TikTok, the platform still faces content moderation issues. A few months ago, videos titled “NyQuil Chicken Challenge” started circulating on TikTok and other social media platforms.

The videos suggest cooking chicken in the over-the-counter nighttime cold and flu medicine. The trend has led the United States Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning.

“The challenge sounds silly and unappetizing – and it is. But it could also be very dangerous,” the FDA said in a statement.

He added: ‘Boiling a drug can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways. Even if you don’t eat the chicken, inhaling the drug vapors during cooking can cause high levels of the drug to enter your body. It could also hurt your lungs.

Abdullah said, “Content that encourages dangerous behavior has no place on TikTok.”

He added that this particular challenge was “not trending” on the platform, “but we remove any content if found and strongly discourage anyone from engaging in behavior that could be harmful to themselves or others”.

Now, when searching for “NyQuil Chicken” on TikTok, a resources page appears advising users on online challenges.

Often, social media platforms struggle to balance free speech and regulation, and TikTok is no exception. “We aim to build responsibly and fairly so that our community has the creative freedom to create authentic and meaningful content,” Abdalla said.

“However, because the safety and well-being of our community is our top priority, there is a balance between creative freedom and our community guidelines.”

As part of the act, TikTok removes any content that violates these guidelines using a mix of technology and human moderation, he added. In the second quarter of 2022 alone, TikTok removed around 25 million infringing videos in the region.

The company also started introducing content tiers earlier this year. “We understand that people may want to avoid certain categories of content based on their personal preferences,” Abdalla said.

“Aware of this, we have been working on building a new system to organize content according to thematic maturity,” he added.

For example, if TikTok detects that a video contains mature or complex themes such as fictional scenes that may be scary or intense for younger audiences, a maturity score is assigned to the video to prevent those under 18 from view it.

Abdalla added, “Our ultimate goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable space for our community to create and consume content they want to see and interact with, and we welcome the opportunity to help solve long-standing industry-wide issues. .”